How To Start A Career As A Corporate Trainer
I often get asked – what should one do to become a corporate trainer? Since I started my blog, I have had some people get in touch and ask the same. I think it’s a common question for people considering this profession. Since training isn’t one of the streams you can pick up in college, doubts and questions are natural. Plus, you don’t run into corporate trainers often like you run into bankers or doctors. So there aren’t many real sources people can get information from. So I thought of writing a post about it and share all that I know about becoming a freelance trainer. I have also sought views from other trainer friends to be able to present a more wholesome picture.
I want to talk about the skills required to be a trainer, move on to things one can do to get into the profession and finally throw light on some of the challenges you are likely to face.
SKILLS REQUIRED AS A CORPORATE TRAINER
Confidence: I don’t just mean confidence that you can train but also facing people and talking to them. You should preferably be an extrovert and like meeting people and working with people. Confidence is also being able to talk well and be able to hold people’s attention while you do that. If facing people gives you the jitters, this isn’t the right career for you.
Communication skills: This term itself is pregnant with meaning. It goes without saying that your communication skills should be flawless, especially if you wish to be a communication and soft skills trainer. You can not win the trust of your clients if you don’t have command over skills your claim to train in. I also mean being able to communicate during tricky situations. You may be required to be assertive in your sessions or use tact to handle trouble makers. Bring rude or highhandedness is not going to make you a popular choice for future sessions.
Willing to learn: Corporate training modules are generally not taught in academics. So even if you are fresh out of college, chances are that you wouldn’t have all background information about conducting programs in business communication, email etiquette, presentation skills and other modules. One just learns along the way in training. But your basic skills need to be in place to be able to imbibe the new knowledge. Benita Dua, a social media trainer who runs Vanilla Skills rightly sums it up when she says, “Good public speakers don’t, by default, make for good trainers”. She feels that one should be willing to add to one’s skills to be a successful trainer. To add to her advice, I’d say that self-learning should be your constant companion. Read up online, make notes, learn from others’ experiences when you hear about them – are a few ways to keep the learning going.
Analytical skills: I feel that there is a lot of analysis and judgement required as part of the job. There are a lot of questions whose answers you will need to figure out through analysis of a situation. What are the exact expectations of the client even if he isn’t able to express it in as many words? How much content do you need to develop to cover the duration of the class? What kind of activities would work best with the profile group? What does class expect when you face them at the beginning of a session? Is the session going fine? Do you need to tweak it to suit the group better? As mentioned earlier, you will learn this along the way. Reading up online and learning from your own and others’ experiences will help a great deal. Mitu Samar, a personal branding expert who runs Eminence Online, aptly puts the mantra as practice, practice, practice – and it applies to both, beginner and an expert. She also adds that understanding your audience, customizing content will help a beginner create a lasting impact as a trainer.
Marketing and sales: If you planning to work on your own, you will need some marketing skills to be able to push your profile forward and find clients for yourself. Linkedin will be a great place to find prospective clients (more on this later) and so is your presence in social media.
Supriya Dhongde, a psychologist and Dale Carnegie certified trainer, covers all the points when she puts her list together – continuous efforts on the right attitude, sharpening skills, enhancing knowledge and strong belief in the innate potential of people.
3 THINGS YOU SHOULD DO TO START AS A CORPORATE TRAINER
Now coming to what are the steps you can take to make forays into the profession of training. There are 3 things that come to my mind for a good start:
1. Get certified: We get qualified to pursue any other field of work. Why not training? The first thing I did when I wanted to start training was to get myself certified as a trainer. The brilliant Train The Trainer (commonly known as TTT or T3) program at Dale Carnegie was a great course on generic training skills. It covered all the essentials of being a great trainer. From projecting the right body language to questioning, listening, responding, it covered a lot of things that equipped me to be a better trainer. The training was quite impactful and I still follow a lot of these learnings in my sessions. I suggest that you get yourself certified from a renowned place. It might cost you more but it will be worth it for 2 reasons. One, your certificate will have that much more impact if it is from a well known name. Two, when you start off in the industry, the certificate will be one of your USP which will help you gain trust of clients.
2. Decide your training vertical: I started with language related modules because language has been my core expertise. I gradually moved on taking softs skills and behavioral skills modules (and now, coaching) though my core expertise helped me in all that I took up later. There are a whole lot of topics you can train in. Language training (CELTA, IELTS, TOEFL), communication skills, soft skills, behavioural skills, image consulting (requires a certification) and the options are limitless. Keeping your skills and interest in mind, you may want to decide what is the best you can do at the beginning. That will be your main offering to your clients and you will look for clients who need to get trained in those verticals.
3. Put yourself in the market: And here starts the challenge – go out and find work. I feel Linkedin is the best place to begin showcasing your profile and network professionally. You have HR managers, company owners, entrepreneurs and a lot of them are looking for trainers. Read up on how to optimise your profile so that it shows up in the search results. Ensure you write the best headline and summary that will help people locate you. You may initially speak to a few people and not succeed in getting assignments. But remember your learning starts from the word go. Try and understand what your clients are asking for. Are there things that you don’t seem to know. Read up on them, prepare yourself so that your future pitches get better.
CHALLENGES AS A CORPORATE TRAINER
You may feel ready and raring to go by now. But I think it my duty to debunk the myths that surround the profession. Corporate training is not as glamorous as it looks or seems. It’s one thing to see a smartly dressed trainer waltz into the training room and dazzle everyone with his/her talent. And it’s totally another thing to go through the toil of sweat and grime that goes into making that session appear so seamless. Let’s look at a few challenges that you often encounter in the profession. This will also give aspiring trainers an idea to gauge if you have it in you to get into the profession.
Content development: I put this first because this, to me, is still a huge challenge. Creating content for programs is not just about creativity and innovation – which in itself is a challenge – it is also about actually sitting down and creating content that works. This involves hours of planning the structure and flow of the session and coming up with activities that will drive home the point. And then comes creating slides and handouts, designing participant work books and other collaterals that your client might need (or demanded). You need to have a flair to do or at least labour through it in your initial years till you can outsource it someone else.
Long Training hours: In all these years of training, I have been asked only once about whether I can physically handle long hours of training. People generally look at the ideation bit of training and tend to ignore the physical labour involved. Some of you may differ but training for 8 hours in a day can be quite straining on the body and the vocal chords. The trainer needs to not just be on his/her feet, but also remain energetic throughout to ensure that the participants’s interest remains unflagging. When you train for a few consecutive days, it definitely takes a toll on you. So unless you truly enjoy what you do, it’ll be hard to carry on.
Only feedback survives: The first level of feedback is taken at the end of every program. This is just one of Donald Kirkpatrick’s 4 level evaluation model and gauges just the “reaction” of the participants. It is based on the immediate impression of the participants about the training program. But, as a trainer, this will have the most bearing on your career. Most organisations pay the most attention to this – higher levels of feedback usually being non existent. So you are as good as the scores on that sheet at the end of the session. You may have done your best but if that does not translate into good scores that will finally reach the client, it all comes to nought.
Poor community bonds: I know some of us will disagree with this and counter that social media has a lot of training communities. And my answer to that is a question – how many trainers do you know personally? We do have forums on Linkedin but they are all online communities hard to make personal contact with. Other professions have conventions and meets happening regularly. Name one trainers’ convention that brings all of us together and is widely popular and you are likely to draw a blank. The reason why this is a challenge is you are less likely to learn from personal experiences. Unless you are lucky enough to run into a mentor who may save you from the trial and error drill.
Nonetheless, you can make the community count even as an individual. I urge you to reach out and strengthen the bonds of community. Foster it at your level. The training skills page of this blog is a platform for trainers like all of us. Let’s use the space and share our experiences, raise our concerns, form a strong community which serves as a voice for all trainers in the industry.
I hope I have been able to bring forth all the points that an aspiring trainer is looking for. Do you have more points to add? Do you have questions to ask? Please drop your suggestions and questions in the comments below so that other readers also can see them and make their contribution.
For additional reading, this brilliant article that puts together an exhaustive list of all competencies of a trainer.